Syria's Foreign Policies Impede Economic Progress, Dardari Says - By EHSANI2 - Syria Comment

Syria’s Foreign Policies Impede Economic Progress, Dardari Says – By EHSANI2

Syria's Foreign Policies Impede Economic Progress, Dardari Says
By EHSANI2
October 20, 2006
"Syria Comment"

Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah Dardari has been the country’s chief spokesman and optimist when it comes to promises of reforms and economic prosperity.

As readers of this forum recall, this writer was always a skeptic. While the Minister promised reforms and tried to convince his populace that growth and prosperity were around the corner, this writer offered caution and warned that the country’s true economic prospects are far worse than what is being portrayed by the country’ s leadership.

This summer, I posted a note on "Syria Comment," entitled “Does Syria’s President Have The Will Or Conviction To Reform”. Set below is my opening remarks from that article:

“Syrian political reforms are unlikely to take place anytime soon. The President has recently listed security as first on his agenda. Some people think that this is a direct result of the recent events in Iraq. To be sure, however, security has always been Syria’s top priority under this regime. Indeed, it is only when one fully understands how much this leadership is preoccupied with security that one can fully appreciate what Syria is all about. Against many odds, this regime has been able to stay in power for close to 40 years. The longer it has been able to stay in power, the more convinced it has become that its preoccupation with security in not only warranted but a prerequisite for survival. All calls for political reform is viewed with great suspicion. Pushing for such reforms is seen as a prelude to weakening the grip of regime, which will ultimately lead to its downfall. The regime is unlikely therefore to want to tinker with a survival formula that has served it very well over four decades.”

Since then a lot has happened of course:

Arab leaders were derided and referred to as half-men. The country’s relationship with the U.S. and the west continue to deteriorate. Cooperation and coordination with the Islamic Republic of Iran has strengthened. The Hariri investigation still hangs as a dark cloud over the country.

As the country’s leadership charted its political strategy, reforms and the economy were bound to fall as victims. Thus far, the country’s leaders gave the impression that they can handle the political pressure AND deliver on their economic growth promises.

According to the article below, not anymore.

"Syria's Foreign Policies Impede Economic Progress, Dardari Says"
Dania Saadi
Oct. 17
(Bloomberg) — Syria's refusal to bow to U.S. pressure to sign a peace treaty with Israel has choked aid flows to the Arab nation, jeopardizing plans to sell state assets and cut the bloated public payroll, a cabinet minister said. Syria, which is under U.S. sanctions, would risk civil unrest if it pushed through reforms that drove up unemployment without first guaranteeing social benefits and pension accords, said Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah Dardari. “In a country that is confronting all these regional challenges and is under pressure from the West because of its political positions, is it worth it to have social unrest,'' said Dardari, 42, in an interview on Oct. 11 in his office in Damascus.

“We are definitely not willing to pay the political price of such international financial support.''  Syria, which borders Iraq and Lebanon, is seeking to cut some of its 1.3 million state jobs to offset tumbling revenue from oil production, which now accounts for 40 percent of fiscal income. The U.S., the biggest potential donor of financial aid, expanded sanctions in 2004, accusing the country of pursuing weapons of mass destruction and hindering the U.S. effort in Iraq. Syria denies the accusations. 

The U.S. has blocked Syria's application to enter the World Trade Organization. The European Union, which imports almost half of Syrian exports, delayed ratification of a free trade accord.

Jordan and Egypt have signed peace accords with Israel and now receive aid of about $2.3 billion a year from the U.S. and have won tariff-free access to its markets.

Fiscal Crunch

Syrian President Bashar Assad says the country will only sign a peace accord with Israel in return for the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day war. The government needs to boost growth and raise taxes to avoid a fiscal crunch in 2010, when the International Monetary Fund forecasts it will become a net importer of oil. The state plans to introduce a value-added tax by 2008 and lower fuel subsidies to compensate for a decline in oil revenue, Dardari said. Oil production, running at about 400,000 barrels a day, is expected to drop to 12 percent of gross domestic product by 2015, from about 25 percent now, the IMF says.

“We have a budget deficit risk because of depleting oil resources, this is the driving force behind our reform program,'' said Dardari, a former journalist with the London-based Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper.

Mixed Results

To date, Syria has failed to boost tax revenue to compensate for declining income from oil. Tax as a percentage of GDP is currently at a low of 10.5 percent, compared with 13.7 percent in Egypt and 15.8 percent in Jordan, according to the IMF. 

“We would like to go faster but there are a number of reasons why we are not. For example, human resources to manage a market economy do not exist in Syria,'' said Dardari. Syria has cut income taxes over the past two years to 28 percent from 64 percent in order to broaden the tax base and boost revenue. The government wants to raise income from direct and indirect taxes to 14 percent of the GDP by 2010, from 7 percent now, Dardari said.

“So far implementation of reforms such as lowering taxes has been mixed,'' said David Butter, senior Middle East analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. “There has been some progress, but it is small and limited.'' Under a five-year plan adopted by the Baath Party in 2005, the government set a target of maintaining a fiscal deficit of 4 percent of GDP by 2010. To do that, it needs to slash fuel subsidies that will rise to 14.5 percent of GDP by the end of this year, the IMF estimates.

Investment Climate

Syria aims to boost economic growth to 7 percent by 2010 by reducing paper work, easing state controls and attracting more investors, Dardari said. It currently takes 43 days on average to start a business in Syria, compared with nine days in Turkey and five days in the U.S., according to the World Bank.

The country is counting on investments, mainly from Persian Gulf countries, to boost growth in non-oil industries such as manufacturing, tourism, services and banking, Dardari added. Investment increased 88 percent to 375 billion Syrian pounds ($7.2 billion) last year from 200 billion pounds in 2004, he said. “Regional surplus oil revenue is looking for places to invest so we managed to grasp that opportunity despite the very difficult political circumstances,'' said Dardari, who also heads the State Planning Commission in Syria.

Unemployment, which the government says is at 10 percent, is forecast to decline to 8 percent by 2010, according to the five-year plan. The IMF estimates that the unemployment rate was at 14 percent in 2004 and could exceed 20 percent by 2010 because of a 4 percent annual increase in the labor force.

“There will be some painful decisions, for example cutting fuel oil subsidies,'' said Dardari. “Yes, these decisions are coming, but we are doing them in a manner that suits the social stability and coherence of the people of Syria.''

Being the eternal optimist, Mr. Dardari reminds us of course that these decisions “are coming”.

I would not hold my breath.

Let me conclude by reminding everyone what a 4 percent annual increase in the labor force means: Even in an expanding population like that of the U.S., the labor force currently grows at 1.1 percent annually. Labor Force is defined as that portion of the population, which is actively seeking work. Given the low median age of the Syrian population, the labor force as a percentage of the population is relatively high. As more women decide to seek work, the labor force as a percentage of the population is likely to expand further. However, even if one assumes that today’s labor force makes up only 60 percent of the total population, one can conclude that close to 12 million Syrians belong in this group. A 4 percent annual growth translates into 480,000 new entrants into this pool every year. In other words, unless the economy creates 480,000 new jobs every year, the ranks of the unemployed will continue to rise. Note that creating this many jobs will not help the already unemployed but only the new job seekers. 

This is a ticking time bomb that no one wants to confront or address.

Most Syrians are apparently proud of their leader for standing up to the west and the great Satan in particular. They choose to ignore the country’s massive economic challenges ahead. Regrettably, our country’s fortunes and the economic well being of our citizens continue to deteriorate at an alarming speed. Most people on this forum do not feel it. It is highly unlikely that they represent the majority of struggling Syrians who do not know or have not seen any better since birth. Millions of people have resigned themselves to the fact that prosperity and higher standards of living is not for them. For 43 years, their leaders have convinced them that their country is challenged and targeted. With the loud tunes of that CD playing in their heads, the country continues to live in denial of what the future holds for them and their future generation.

Comments (63)


ivanka said:

There are many sobering facts in this article. However, what is the solution? The article says political pressure is the cause of our economical problems. So a direct approach would be to say well let us get rid of the pressures. How is this doable?

I only have one remark about the content of the article : It suggests that signing a peace deal with Israel has hepled Egypt’s economy. This is debatable.

October 17th, 2006, 3:05 pm

 

ivanka said:

It is also difficult to understand the opening sentence. It suggests the US is asking Syria to sign a peace agreement with Israel and Syria is refusing. This isn’t true.

October 17th, 2006, 3:10 pm

 
 

norman said:

Ivanca,you are right ,they want Syria to sell out as Egypt did under Sadat ,a freind of mine from Egypt told me that Saudi Arabia stopped it,s assistance to Egypt and forced Sadat to sell out ,they plan the same for Syria,but they do not know that Syrians would rather starve than sell out Syrians do not sell theier kids for a peice of bread ,ehsani ,you were in Syria recently ,can you tell me how many starved children you encounterd ,i will bet you you have seen non,Syria,s economy is alot more complicated than the many people think and does not follow the logic of western economics,Ithink partly because Syria has a thriving black market and many peopl especialy families help each others and they know how to avoid estate taxes so many transfere hands without traxation ,i just want to tell you that their cell phone are better than ours and they seem to afford them ,I do not know how but they do,so go figure.

October 17th, 2006, 5:37 pm

 

ugarit said:

“Syria’s refusal to bow to U.S. pressure to sign a peace treaty with Israel has choked aid flows to the Arab nation, jeopardizing plans to sell state assets and…”

When did this happen? The US has not been pressuring Syria to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In fact, the US has been pressuring Israel NOT to even negotiate with Syria. I’m sorry but Syria is not an extremist country when compared to Israeli and the US policies. However the above quote is intended to set the tone of the article such that one thinks that the problem is solely in Syria’s hands.

Syria had massive economic problems even before the so called “isolation”.

October 17th, 2006, 6:23 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Norman,

If you think as highly in the Syrian economy and its prospects, why don’t you pack and leave the U.S. to avoid their real estate taxes as well as their antiquitated cell phones?

If you think the Syrian economy is as healthy as you described it, why aren’t you there? A doctor like you can surely benefit from the “thriving black economy” that you seem to be fond of.

Sound economic policy is universal. There is no such thing as a “logic of Western economics” and a logic of Syrian economics.

While you want to paint the latter as a vibrant stand-alone model of economic thought, the fact is that is it is bankrupt and rotten at the core.

October 17th, 2006, 6:28 pm

 
 

norman said:

Ehsani ,take a deep breath ,I do not want to have a heart attach, aren,t you the one who complained about asking syrians to return to help ,I think you did that multiple times, I am not saying that Syria does not have economic problems that needs to be addressed and i actualy like what you say but i disagree with your revolutionary aproch to improve Syria and i think the US goverment can do alot to help and get credit but they are shortsighted ,about going back to Syria ,that will happen when i have somthing to help Syria more if i were there than here, I do alot for Syria from here , you do not have to in Syria to help Syrians.

October 17th, 2006, 7:01 pm

 

simohurtta said:

Ehsani2 what country could have significant economical development if it is under US sanctions and fierce political pressure? It is rather naïve time after time repeat like a broken LP that only Syrian government is to be blamed for the lack of economical development. Anybody with a little sense understands that the sanctions block much of the development. And also the Iraq situation during the 80’s and 90’s has certainly reflected to Syria’s economy. Not to mention Israel’s “responsibility” in spending too much to defence.

Why is Washington actually pressuring Syria and what does it want to achieve? The “counter parts” Iran – Saudi Arabia and Syria – Egypt are different only in one respect. The later mentioned obey USA the first mentioned do not. Not even Ehsani2 can claim that Saudi Arabia is a more democratic “religious country” than Iran. Ehsani2 would have hard time explaining why Egypt can be considered to be more democratic than Syria. So in the end it is not the level of “religion” in a country or the level of democracy. It is OBIEDIENCE to let USA to dictate the rules of the game as it has been a long time.

Saying repeatedly, that USA and Israel are used as excuses in the economical development of Syria are mildly said astonishing. Who would invest hundreds of millions Euros in Syria, lets say in a petrochemical factory, so long there is a high risk of war and USA signals in every way that investments in Syria are not welcomed in Washington and are considered as “hostile” actions. Anybody with any experience of how economics works knows that Syria is not a safe environment for huge investments. Not before the Golan issue is solved and USA / Israel change their attitude. Israel’s deliberate destroying of Lebanon’s industry capacity, beaches and infrastructure was a clear message to investors all around the world – do not invest here.

Ehsani2 obviously thinks that after a regime change every Syrian opens a kiosk and begins to sell imported products and services to their neighbours. And after two months every Syrian is employed and rich after selling their assets to US companies.

Ehsani2 by the way the development in Egypt and Jordan have not been unseen economical success stories (or the developement in democracy) after the peace treaties.

October 17th, 2006, 7:54 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

SIMOHURTTA,

Syria’s so-called economic development has been non-existent long before the US sanctions.

Lack of free market economics, excessive regulation, high taxation, lack of protection of property rights and endemic corruption have been the reasons and not the more recent US sanctions.

You ask, “Who would invest hundreds of millions of Euros in a petrochemical factory so long as there is a high risk of war”.

I can tell you that more prospective investors shy away from investing in a socialist Baathist country than for any other reason. Even before the sanctions, those prospective investors did not exactly rush to invest in a country riddled with the list of problems cited above.

Lastly, the leader of a country has to weigh all the pros and cons when making strategic decisions on behalf of his populace. Surely, Bashar took his latest stand knowing full well of what was to come his country’s way on the economic front. Regrettably, it is his citizens that will pay the price.

October 17th, 2006, 8:26 pm

 

Mick said:

Most Americans are apparently proud of their leader for standing up to the east and the great Satan in particular. They choose to ignore the country’s massive economic challenges ahead. Regrettably, our country’s fortunes and the economic well being of our citizens continue to deteriorate at an alarming speed. Most people on this forum do not feel it. It is highly unlikely that they represent the majority of struggling Americans who do not know or have not seen any better since birth. Millions of people have resigned themselves to the fact that prosperity and higher standards of living is not for them. For 43 years, their leaders have convinced them that their country is challenged and targeted. With the loud tunes of that CD playing in their heads, the country continues to live in denial of what the future holds for them and their future generation.

October 18th, 2006, 2:53 am

 

Alex said:

Ehsani,

“American sanctions” are not the whole story … since Syria opposed Camp David, the Americans made it extremely difficult to get loans, and to even have enough free time to concentrate on the economy… the non-democratic Egypt on the other hand, had billions in US aid every year, and had much more investment from US allies ..etc.

Of course, YOU are also right that corruption makes it not appealing for some investors to consider Syria … but many investors do tolerate corruption in China, they know they have to bribe communist officials before their factory is approved .. surely you know.

This, my dear frined, is also not a black and white case.

October 18th, 2006, 7:57 am

 

Dubai Jazz said:

What happened to the giant cement manufacturing plant we heard that the Chinese were going to build in Syria?
What happened to the several IT and Media cities that were supposed to be built in the vicinity of Damascus, Aleppo and Hama?
It seems that the Chinese are also shying away… and the reasons are obvious.

October 18th, 2006, 9:06 am

 

Dubai Jazz said:

Dr. Landis:
Not to skip the previous post, which is of a great importance.
It seems that the white house ‘report of recommendations’ on how to sort out the dilemma in Iraq, is going to be made public soon.
The leaks indicate suggestions to involve Syria and Iran in stabilizing the situation.
The Iraqi president himself has supported such propositions, as he ascertained in an interview yesterday that the Syrian-Iranian involvement will stabilize the security status.
I still think it’s highly unlikely for the Bush administration to make such a move right now, but the report is still to be taken seriously as it is.

October 18th, 2006, 10:00 am

 

ausamaa said:

Ehsani_2

I have not had the time to look at the most recent statistics about Syria’s Economy, nor am I an expert in Economics so as to convincingly accept or reject your analysis which was summed up by you in this manner:

“They (i.e., The leadership) choose to ignore the country’s massive economic challenges ahead. Regrettably, our country’s fortunes and the economic well being of our citizens continue to deteriorate at an alarming speed”.

I am sorry, but I have been hearing alarming statements like this for years. But, once you visit Damascus, and once you compare on an-apple-to-apple basis the true and adjusted standard of living of the average Syrian, with his Egyotian, Jordanian, or Lebanese nieghbour (on the segmented per capita/population income prackets basis as opposed to the whole GDP, GNP and Unemployment, poverty indicators, or the “Gross” devided by the “Total” popoulation, things take a different prespective and Syrians appear to do be doing much better than their counterparts in those countries which claim to have opened up thier economies, and whose income is supplemented -if not kept aflot- by the vast amounts of US / Gulf subsidies which Syria is not recieving- then things do not seem to be “deteriorating” for Syria at the alarming speed you mention. Apart from this, the government can not be unjustly acused of doing nothing in the way of new Laws, Regulations and trade and economic directives.

Any way and for the sake of simplicity, Let us take a laymen’s look at the situation and some of its the basic assumptions:

– Why should we accept that Oil Revenues are dropping drastically at a time when the prices of Oil is hitting the roof. And Syria is net exporter. Has production decreased so much that it has swallowed the windfall resulting from the price per barrel increase???? Are potential future oil and gas discoveries indicated by the agreements signed with one company after another taken into such gloomy projections?

– Has Syria not realized any fiscal or financial gains from the its latest debt rescheduling with Russia and others?

– Has Syria achieved no Savings as a result of removing 30,000 soldiers of its troops out of Lebanon? Can you calculate the logistical cost of maintaining those 30,000 troops outside the country?

– Why is the Syrian pound not really fluctuating in line with your projections? Economics aside, political pressure similar to the one Syria was subjected to would have been sufficient to wreck havoc on the exchange ratio in normal situations. And this does not seem to be happening with the Syrian Pound.

– What is the effect of the newly opened private banks in Syria on liquidity, trade enhancement, capital investment, and reserve of foriegn currencies?

– Did the Syrian Economy not benefit at all from the unfortunately unstable state of affairs in Iraq and even Lebanon during the last years? Trade with Turky? Transit Trade to the Gulf, Agricultural Exports, Etc….?

– How is the Agricultural Output of the country, both in terms of Quantity and revenue/cost contributing to the economy? Up, down, the same? At a times when commodity prices are hitting the roof world-wide?

– And if things are so bad for the “population”, how can we explain the explosive increase and the high number of subscribers and high usage of Mobile phones by the Average Syrian? Are Mobiles per Capita or per Household ratios available? How do they compare with similar ratios in Egypt, Sudan, Morrocco, Jordan or Iraq, for example? Can the so economically desperate and hungry people of Syria afford Mobiles and thier charges? And what about the tax revenue from the telecom companies???

– Those are only a few remarks that negate the alarming conclusion you are trying to reach. And those remarks would be the first to come to someone’s mind when somebody else tries to sell us a complicated economic doomsday scenario.

P.S.

An uneconomic-related note on your ending paragraph observation: “Most Syrians are apparently proud of their leader for standing up to the west and the great Satan in particular”. I beg your pardon, but since when has any Syrian in any capacity used the word “GREAT SATAN” to describe the United States??? That is a typical Iranian term; not Syrian. Its use by you (the Satan term) in an article relating to Syrian affairs is an unforgivable slip and can be taken as an indication of a subconscious eagerness on your part to highlight “negative subjectivity” at the expense of “factual objectivity”. Which may shed doubts about the objectivity of the whole article: Is the intent Analyzing or just Over Criticizing.

Let us be as objective as we can. Hate Assad as the “structured economy” as much as you want, but give God what is to God, and Give Ceaser what is to Ceaser.

October 18th, 2006, 2:00 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Ehsani_2

Sorry, in my eagerness to “lighten” the doomsday snapshot of the Syrian Economy, the major point, the title of the article: “Syria’s Foriegn Policy Impedes Economic Progress”. On this I agree with you 100%. Of course Syria’s foriegn policies are having a negative effect on the economy.

What fool would expect Syria to be saying NO to the US, France, Israel, and NOT to SUFFER economically? Stands have their price, or do they not? Hence, What is New?

And to be fair, we do not recall Investment Monies, US Aid and Gulf Cash frantically and uncontrollably pouring into Syria before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 which caused the recent rift between Syria and the above mentioned. So, what has Syria really lost, even if one opts to think within such parameters?

Actually, if we go back in time, we would also not be able to recall that Syria was offered serious economic or military aid by the West, and the US in particular, before it opted to sign the Czechoslovakian Arms deal back in the sixties which – when followed by Egyt- had practically opened the doors to the Soviet Union and put us on the Eastern Block side of world politics then!!!! So, have little mercy.

October 18th, 2006, 2:27 pm

 

norman said:

well said Ausama ,syria needs help not punishment to improve ,we should not kill the patient trying to save him ,Ehsani, DO NO HARM .that can help you know why we disagree with you on the way to prosperity.

October 18th, 2006, 3:01 pm

 

ivanka said:

I do not think we should reject what this article says. I think, as a Syrian, that although life standards are improving, life for the average person has become very difficult. The economy as a whole has problems and they are being aggravated by US sanctions. This makes the overall economical situation very challenging.

I disagree with how the article describes the cause of this. First of all, I think it contains a big mistake : It says the US is pressing Syria to signa peace deal. We all know, and we can read in Israeli and US press, that the contrary is happening. Like Ugarit said, the US is pressing Israel not to sign a peace deal.

Also, in connection with Norman’s comment :

Before Camp David , Egypt was the strongest economy in Africa. It counted on itself in industry and sold everything from bycicles to cars, to many African countries.

Where is egypt’s role in African economy today. I mean now Egypt’s economy is more strongly tied to Israel’s than to Sudan’s.

I am not comparing this to Syria’s economy. We have never been a strong economy regionally. Not like egypt.

October 18th, 2006, 5:27 pm

 

ivanka said:

But all this does not answer the question : We are, according to this article, faced with the prospect of an economic catastrophe. What should we do to avoid it? If it is due to foreign pressure, how do we stop this pressure?

I will not try to answer. But all this has reminded me of a story :

This summer, a friend of mine needed, on a couple of occasions, to buy scientific books to teach at the university in Syria. Every time he would place an order for something like 200 copies of an engineering book for undergraduate students and the answer would be we can’t sell these books to you because you are from a “sanctioned country”.

I mean if this is all sanctions are doing then I want to laugh; He found the book via a friend and made 200 photocopies and gave it to the students. This actually saved a lot of money. I mean we just paid the photocopy shop, we didn’t even pay for the book.

October 18th, 2006, 5:38 pm

 

annie said:

Sanctions ARE a hassle; getting a book from Amazon delivered in Syria is impossible. I have to go thru a third country with the risk of the books getting lost plus the very long delays.
I also could not get paypall from here.

October 18th, 2006, 6:33 pm

 

ugarit said:

Let’s face it Syria cannot have a democracy when it is economically weak. This is also true for other countries. I know that sounds terrible because it breaks my heart to even see it this way.

Weak countries CANNOT have viable democracies because the powers that be will manipulate that democracy to the point where it becomes pointless.

The reason so many South American nations are becoming truely democractic, inspite of US pressure, is that there is now a more independent source of capital to fund the countries’ infrastructures. In the past only the US would have funds of that magnitude and would essentially hold those countries hostage. Thos days are disappearing.

The Arab World can only become more democratic if there were funds that are created for and by the people who live there.

Let’s face it the Arab World is not independent nor is fully de-colonized. In fact, we’re being re-colonized. No I’m not talking about socialism or capitalism and all those cheap slogans, but to simply be able to actually control ones destiny is a prerequisite to intellectual and economic growh.

October 18th, 2006, 7:03 pm

 

ugarit said:

“I mean if this is all sanctions are doing then I want to laugh; He found the book via a friend and made 200 photocopies and gave it to the students. This actually saved a lot of money. I mean we just paid the photocopy shop, we didn’t even pay for the book.”

Photocopying is a better idea economically. Now that’s a business to get into, in Syria of course.

October 18th, 2006, 7:07 pm

 

ugarit said:

Many of us, including me, claim that things were economically better before the Baath took power in Syria. Where is the evidence of this? Better for whom? I suspect the economic situation was not that good for the overwhelming majority? I need to see the numbers.

Also, is there a good source about the short lived democracy that existed in Syria in the late 50’s?

Dr. Landis?

October 18th, 2006, 7:11 pm

 
 

Ehsani2 said:

Ausamaa,

I will try to answer each of the questions that you posed:

You should accept that oil revenues are dropping drastically because it is a fact. “We have a budget deficit risk because of depleting oil resources,” said Dardari to the reporter. Oil production, running at 400,000 barrels a day, is expected to drop to 12% of GDP by 2015 from about 25% now according to the IMF. This will be enough to make the country a net “importer”.

Did Syria get a financial gain from its recent debt rescheduling with Russia you asked?
This is a topic that is little understood. When you reschedule a debt, you indeed reduce the stock of debt on you books. However, this deal resulted in Syria paying interest that it was not doing prior to the rescheduling. If anything, the deal resulted in more pressure on the interest expenses line item in the budget. The stock of debt on the books though is certainly down.

Has Syria achieved no savings as a result of removing 30,000 soldiers from Lebanon?
While the army does not publish its figures, common sense would dictate that the net result of the withdrawal has been a net negative for the Syrian economy. The removal of the 30,000 soldiers was most likely a relocation back to Syria. While that may save you some money, think of all the recent negative monetary ramification of the move. They must overwhelm the relocation that you cited.

Why is the Syrian Pound not weakening you ask.
The exchange rate of the Syrian Pound is a political and not an economic decision. The Syrian Government has always viewed the stability of this exchange rate as a critical confidence barometer. Since the currency is not convertible, the authorities can exert great influence over its rate. It has a number of draconian measures up its sleeves that it can resort to when it loses control. In addition, it has full control over a number of large” exchange houses” that it impolitely if not explicitly controls. Lastly, by raising interest rates sharply over the recent past, it was able to stem the outflow out of Syrian Pound based deposits.

Your next question is about the opening of the recent private banks. During my visit this summer, I took the opportunity to talk to the mangers of a number of these institutions. There is no doubt that it is a good step forward. These banks are flush with liquidity. They have more deposits than investments. They are forced to pay close to 8% on deposits but have no local bond market to invest their deposits in. They could lend it of course. Some do so at rates close to 10-11% but only to a select group of industrialists who they deem credit worthy enough. In general, if they happen to be credit worthy, they refuse to pay over 10% on loans. I would therefore say that the private banks are mostly still a work in progress.

As to the agricultural sector, I think that it is still highly inefficient. It is also highly cyclical and totally wheather related. As a result, the sector and the whole economy are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Finally, I would like to address your question on the mobile phones. As you know, the contract was offered to Mr. Makhlouf without a competitive bidding process. This was one the biggest corruption cases ever. The Government could have collected hundred of million of Dollars had it auctioned this in the open market. The taxes that are collected from it pale in comparison to the revenues that are being generated. If you do a back of the envelope calculation, you will conclude that this venture nets Mr. Makhlouf over US $ one Million PER DAY after all expenses and taxes are paid. Why do Syrians love their cell phones? It is indeed the case that it is a hot consumption and status symbol.

Visitors of Syria are indeed impressed by what they see in the fancy neighborhoods of Damascus, and to a certain extent Aleppo. When I came back from my trip, I wrote a note describing how the country is divided in two camps. One contains close to 1 million people while the other has the remaining 19 million. It was a simplistic description of reality of course.

Syria’s main problem is that it suffers from a weak and crumbling infrastructure. The government has an equally weak tax collection system. It has in place enormous subsidies. The country’s health system is in a crisis. The school system also needs significant investments to keep up with the rising population. While the debt load is not heavy, improving the country’s infrastructure is going to require enormous borrowing or financial aid. Given the politics, the latter is now very unlikely. This leaves the government with a dire situation when it comes to its budget. Sources of revenues are dwindling while the obligations and pressure on spending are going to continue to intensify given the high government share of the economy. This does not mean that everyone will starve; To the contrary, some people have and will continue to make enormous amounts of money. With no competition from overseas investors, Syrian entrepreneurs (especially connected ones) will do very well indeed. But, the majority of the people will not. As the population and the labor force continue to expand, poverty will rise in line with unemployment. Don’t be fooled by the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel or the latest fancy restaurant in your neighborhood. Instead, take a trip out of your immediate surroundings. When you ride in a Taxi next time, ask how the driver is currently faring. Travel to any Syrian village and see for yourself the standards of living of the countryside. Economics is simple. Any economy needs to grow in excess of its labor force plus productivity. Syria’s current growth rate is woefully inadequate. It is simply not going to generate enough jobs to absorb the enormous pool of it new job seekers. Don’t let your friend’s latest $400 cell phone unit purchase fool you.

October 18th, 2006, 8:10 pm

 

Fares said:

Exotic Aleppo Flood Pictures

By independant Journalism….who needs media when we have digital cameras and critical eyes.

October 18th, 2006, 8:36 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani , How do you think Syrians can start a big buisness like the mobile buisness without getting prefential treatment from the Syrian gov ,hoping that they will start to compete in other countries for buisness and pay more taxes to Syria ,do you think it would have been better if the mobile buiness went to a forign company just for the sake of compatitivness ,didn,t we have in the US AT@T fo telecomunication for years ,didnt president Regan put special tax to protect Harly Divedson Motorcycles because it is the only American motorcycle company .so countries will do whatever it takes the national interest.

October 19th, 2006, 1:03 am

 

simohurtta said:

A country can give telecom licences to trusted companies (1) or it can sell the licences to the highest bidders (2). The method number one 1 has been used for example in Finland and Sweden, the method 2 in for example in Germany and USA. If the government gets hundreds of millions for the licence from the company, in capitalism it means, that these hundreds of millions for the licence + investments to the network + running costs + profits are collected from the customers. It is an illusion that the hundreds of millions come as a gift from the heaven to the country. In all cases the customers pay for these high licences and it means higher prices. High licences also cause that the companies have less resources to invest in the development of the network. That’s why for example Sweden and Finland gave the licences for free to several companies. Naturally it is not clever to give a monopoly to one private company.

Ten years ago Europe was full of government owned telecom companies. Privatization is a rather new thing also in the developed western economies.

Believing that USA and EU are completely open economies which do not substitute and protect own industries is an illusion. The USA’s and EU’s substitutes for the agriculture sector and its consequences are well known. These substitutes have “ruined” several economies in the developing world. Certainly the Syrian cotton farmers know what US cotton substitutes mean for their business.

If developed countries protect their industries, the developing countries have much better arguments for the need of such protection.

Ehsani2 where are the examples in history where a weak underdeveloped country, with a limited domestic production capacity, has become wealthy and prosperous after an instant shift to “free markets”. Name one. In all the success stories the opening of markets has happened in short steps, when the country has achieved the certain minimum levels.

October 19th, 2006, 4:31 am

 

t_desco said:

Interesting new book, Le grand retournement by Richard Labévière, As’ad AbuKhalil, As-Safir, Al-Jazeera.

The Khaddam CIA/DGSE link is also very interesting.

October 19th, 2006, 11:15 am

 

t_desco said:

Syrian writer released after 4 months’ detention
DPA

October 19th, 2006, 1:11 pm

 

norman said:

Fares has to change his Blog name.

October 19th, 2006, 1:18 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

SimoHurta,

You are asking me to name examples in history where a weak underdeveloped country has become wealthy and prosperous after an INSTANT SHIFT to free markets?

How do you define an instant shift? Is 43 years an instant shift? Is 6 years under the current President an instant shift?

Free markets and capitalism have swept the emerging markets world with astoundingly positive results. China, India, Pakistan, Eastern Europe and Latin America have boomed as the standards of living of their citizens rose and foreign investments poured in.

The battle of ideas and the merit of different economic doctrines have long been settled. Free markets and capitalism won decisively. Instant shift to this model or not, the end result is unambiguously clear. In the case of Syria, the train is yet to leave the station unfortunately.

October 19th, 2006, 2:45 pm

 

ugarit said:

What simohurtta said on October 19th, 2006, 4:31 am is excellent. Thank you for being in the reality based camp.

I work in a US government civilian area and constantly see how corporations are being subsidized and how they are over charging to an obscene level.

October 19th, 2006, 2:49 pm

 

ugarit said:

Ehsani2:

You seem to be implying that we are against investments, which is not the case. People are simply saying that one should be skeptical and cautious of any sort of promise.

October 19th, 2006, 3:08 pm

 

Idaf said:

Kilo is out..
Bunni is expected to be released during eid.

Although I categorically disagree with Fares, I would like to congratulate him and everyone who campaigned for their release (specially all those Syrians who disagree with Bunni and Kilo but campaigned as fiercely for their release).

October 19th, 2006, 4:37 pm

 

Sami D said:

Ehsani2,

Free market principles do not work, although on paper they look elegant. That’s why the firstworld countries have many restraints on such, and usually shove those principles only down the throats of weaker third world countries, with now-predictable results. Free Market capitalism have indeed produced prosperity, measured by GNP, but also massive wealth gap, deterioration of safety standards and rights of workers, which GNP don’t account for. Nor does GNP account for the negative effect that the free market have on the environment, due to extraction of resources and extreme waste. Free market lead to concentration of wealth and monopolies, as well as economies (and lives) based on speculation, Las Vegas style. Also the prosperity is notable among the top 10-20 percent (if lucky) of the population like India, who will be now help advocate the system which benefit them. In mexico under NAFTA’s free market policies, the number of millionairs increased shot up, but 25% sunk into poverty . Most advanced countries like the US, employ SOME free market, but with government guidance and intervention. The remainder of the system follow Keynes’ prescription, although that has deteriorated starting during Nixon, notably under Reagan/Thatcher. The period of more equality in the US was from WWI to 1970s, when government intervention in the economy (opposite of free market) was the norm. Inequality increased and wage stagnated as more free market principles were introduced in the late 1970s. Less government control of the market in the US is associated typically with periods like the robber barons, with massive concentrated wealth and a political system in the hands of private interests, low worker rights — the opposite of democracy — followed by massive collapse and depression in the 1930s. The country was saved by Keynesian principles –again, opposite to free markets, of massive government spending. Free markets finances also lead to massive hype in price of stocks, due to speculation (not real growth), followed by massive collapse and misery. Furthermore, if investors are to invest in Syria, then a democratic body in Syria must be able to have some control over capital flight, and limit effect of detrimental speculation. Malaysa fared much better than other south east asian countries precisely because if restricted the free market principles, not because it allowed them. Now S. Korea has major punishment for capital flight. Argentina has been the model student for applying the free market principles, and its horrific collapse has exposed the danger of the system. Russia, Brazil are other examples of the failure of same principles. Privatization must have its limits, otherwise Syria will chopped up and owned by outside investors who will be, in some essence, the new dictators over the economy. Now Jordan implemented these principles, and the country’s economy is in the hands of foreigners who don’t really care about the well-being of the country, but just about making a buck. They won’t mind dumping the investment in heart beat, if it makes them money, but destroys the country. Now Jordan sports sweat shops and an increased mukhabaraat system (is this freedom) to ensure the subordination of the population to these policies. The social results in general is a highly overworked population, hired other to raise people’s children, less neighborly attitude, more selfishness and materialism, more competition and less cooperation.

Is this what Syria needs? Is this freedom or democracy, against which the third world people are now rebelling, notably in South America? Does Syria need this system where outsider private interests get to control the country, replacing the current dictators? If the people in the first world, more so Europe, put all kinds of controls on this supposedly “great” system called the free market, why should third world countries be suckered into adopting it wholesale?

October 19th, 2006, 4:51 pm

 

Dubai Jazz said:

Great news IDAF, it’s undoubtedly a good gesture from the government to release him.
He will still be letegated while he’s out of jail.
Hope to hear about more releases, more freedom of speech, and most importantly, lifting of martial laws.
Ehsani2, I do agree with most of what you usually pot, but unlike you, I am an optimist…

October 19th, 2006, 6:21 pm

 

annie said:

IDAF: this is wonderful news; welcome back Monsieur Kilo. Hope Monsieur Bunni will follow shortly.

Any of you living in Syria experiencing problems getting to blogspot sites ? A good thing Josh changed addresses because they are practically blocked most of the time.

As for hotmail, same thing and one wonders why ?

October 19th, 2006, 7:59 pm

 

Fares said:

Michel kilo is Finally Free

Thanks everyone for your support and your help in trying to release him.
This is a great day for Syria. Congratulations for everyone who is happy for the news.

October 19th, 2006, 9:21 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Sami D

READ HERE..

Is this the model you want to follow instead?

Free market economics and capitalism is not a perfect system. Indeed, no system is. But, it sure beats all the other alternatives hands down. Syria needs to at least start moving in that direction. Cutting up the cake in equal pieces seems to be a concern of yours. While this is noble, the cake in non-capitalist systems has been too small to cut in the first place. The Private sector needs to be the engine in every economy.

October 19th, 2006, 9:44 pm

 

Philip I said:

For all you romantics and history lovers, there is a link to a film clip of Damascus in 1936 on viarecta.blogspot.com

October 20th, 2006, 12:41 am

 

Sami D said:

Ehsani2
Thanks for the response. I never said cut the pie equally or suggested an alternative yet. I focused on the ills of the system you’re passionately advocating: Free market capitalism (FMC). That this is not perfect system is an understatement. Indeed FMC generates more output to “share” than other systems. But this sharing is EXTREMELY lopsided; (also, saying so does not mean I advocate the other extreme — sharing everything equally — I don’t). For example, technology in the past couple of decades was supposed to lead us to work less, with machines, automation, computers taking over some of the tasks. Instead, now people have to work harder, produce more, spouses have also to work, all to make ends meet. Something’s missing! Under FMC the fruit of work gravitates to the shrinking few on top, so the middle/bottom have to work more and more. And the fraction of a percent on top are now starting to count their wealth in billions. That’s criminal IMO. These guys don’t work; they rely on others to work for them, thanks to FMC. They will fund intellectuals and institutions to tell us that FMC works greatly. Reality is different. Severe inequality (which is part of FMC) in a rich society is worse that some inequality in not so rich society. Just inequality by itself has been shown to be harmful to society’s health. Just caring about growth is unsustainable. Also, for the elite few to own the limited resources MEANS that the many HAVE TO BE deprived of them.

The minimum wage in the US, for example, has been stagnant since late 1960s in real dollars. To make ends meet in the US you need to be not above poverty or above middle class even, but at least in top 30 percent of the population. Even if you’re in the top 20 you can’t afford college these days. And the US has restraint on capitalism, like a welfare system and a minimum wage (which would drop more even, had there not been a minimum wage law). The US ranks last among other industrial societies in human indexes like health care, child mortality, education. Europe fares better because its FMC is more tamed that of the US. The Scandinavian model is even better than the European in general, judged by its societal indexes performances. It seems the more capitalism, the more behind industrial countries get. Nor can we ignore in the statement you write (capitalism “beats alternatives hands down”) that the US has actively helped destroy alternatives, militarily or by other means.

What model do I recommend? Participatory Economics by Albert/Hahnel is a good start:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_economics I haven’t yet delved into too much of its detail, but at least it’s a model that develops on values that sound fair: Where you work harder/you sacrifice more, you deserve more of the pie (not a million times more as in capitalism – unless you can work a million times harder!!) That makes sense to me. Balanced job complex, where people do good empowering work, as well as their share of unpleasant work. Why should people “specialize” in unpleasant, repetitive, mind numbing stuff (just because they are not the son of a rich man, or are not Einstein) while others do gratifying, empowering work? The idea of a good system is also to mitigate power, not concentrate it. FMC focuses power in moneyed interests, corrupts the political system, undermines democracy, destroys the environment while people care about themselves as they cut the branch they stand on while competing to the bottom. FMC overworks people, alienates them, encourages selfishness (Adam Smith didn’t really advocate selfishness, although he’s been hijacked on behalf of greed. Read Patricia Werhane on this), a system where wasting is good for the economy, where if I spend my money (loss) I am helping the economy, and if I take a loan and am in debt, I am REALLY helping the economy, a system where under 1% own as much as the bottom 50%, and more with time, where media is compromised on behalf of the powerful, a system where people work in top-down dictatorial institution called corporations, a systems that sponsors sweatshops of slaves, a system that goes up and down like a roller coaster, with massive speculation casino style termed investment and trading, collapses, depression, monopolies, inequalities, unemployment, homelessness, commodification of everything, externalizing cost to society while privatizing profits, a trillion dollar advertisement industry aimed at deceiving people to buy more products, copyrighting/patenting everything including human genome, genetically modified foods/crops … all symptomatic of capitalism. “Imperfect” for FMC is a severe understatement. It only “beats other systems hands down” in textbooks and the world of Murray Rothbard, where you and I get together to build a road then charge others to drive on it. There is no REAL laissez-fair system, although many of its prescriptions are being shoved down the throats of third world countries, to detrimental effects, where they are asked to cut subsidies to the poor, to industries, to education, to healthcare, to agriculture (while first world countries subsidize their farmers), remove regulations, etc to help first world private interests control third world countries). . I prefer a system that stresses cooperation, solidarity, pooling of resources, protecting the environment, equality in rights, giving a hand to those who can’t work, free education and healthcare for all, not externalizing cost to society. Capitalism wants to devour all of these for profit making. That’s why Participatory Economics sounds good to me.

Best,
Sami D.

October 20th, 2006, 2:39 am

 

simohurtta said:

Ehsani2 as an economist you should know that six years is a blink of eye in a country’s economical development. You have argued time after time that “free markets” will make Syria prosperous, without much bothering to explain from where come those “investors” so long the situation with USA/Israel continues unchanged. Syria’s development depends mostly that this security and stability problem can be solved. Still it is for me unclear what kind of new regime in Syria would be needed so that Israel would make a peace (and with what price to Syria). An instant jump to a secular western style democracy is hardly possible in the present “atmosphere”. Would a military dictatorship (Syrian Ataturk) you have in previous comments mentioned as your vision for Syria, be any better than a relative soft civilian one party dictatorship. The American experiments with “Ataturks” in Latin America, South East Asia and Europe have not provided good economical (or democratic) results for the local people. The good economical results have been achieved by US companies who had the change to get natural resources with laughable compensations.

East Europe has seen development in those countries which have joined EU or are allowed to join the EU. Elsewhere in East Europe the “free market” effect has not provided very good results. Let’s take Estonia as an example of “free markets”. Most of larger Estonian companies are now owned by Finnish, Swedish, German etc companies. Foreigners own much land and houses in Tallinn and tourist areas, which they bought extremely cheaply when the process started. Not all Estonians are completely happy with that side of development. East European countries have got through EU stability, financial aid, a ready legislation framework etc. They also do not have Israel as their neighbour and are not under US financial and political pressure.

China and India have gradually opened portions of their economy and that process has taken decades.

Most “free trade” countries have not succeeded, which reveals that economical development is a little more complex process than shouting “free trade will fix our problems”.

By the way Ehsani2 do you describe China as a better “democracy” than Syria?

October 20th, 2006, 5:18 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

“I’m sorry but Syria is not an extremist country when compared to Israeli and the US policies.”

Please stop crying about the Syrian Baathist economy. We all know that the Syrian econonmy and personal freedoms will take a back seat to the 2 main issues:

1.) Fighting Zionism’

2.) Keeping Baby Bashar and the Baathist in power

Am I right Dr. Landis?

We must focus on the Big Bad Zionist external enemy or be faced with the delightful internal existence of the Syrian population.

I would choose Door #1 if I were a Baathist or a Palestinian or even an Iranian mullah.

October 20th, 2006, 11:29 am

 

t_desco said:

White House resists major course change in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Bush will resist election-year pressure for a major shift in strategy in Iraq, the White House said on Friday, despite growing doubts among Americans and anxiety over the war among Republican lawmakers.

White House officials say the recommendations will be reviewed seriously but have already rejected trial balloons such as a phased troop withdrawal, a dialogue with Iran and Syria, and a partitioning of Iraq.
Reuters/WP

October 20th, 2006, 4:46 pm

 

t_desco said:

Syrian Opposition To Open Washington Office

WASHINGTON — A Syrian opposition coalition that includes the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood will open a Washington office in the coming months to lobby Congress, the press, and the Bush administration to help bring democracy to Damascus.

The umbrella group, known as the National Salvation Front, already has the tacit approval of the National Security Council, whose officials met with some of the organization’s unaffiliated and liberal representatives in August.

Over the last six months, the Bush administration has expressed cautious interest in a coalition that includes the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, in part because of its frustration with the Assad regime, which the Brotherhood opposes. In March, for example, the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, David Welch, noted that the State Department was interested in what the Front had to say. Those remarks came a few weeks after a summit between a former Syrian vice president who defected in 2005, Abdul Halim Khaddam, and Mr. Bayanouni, who agreed to work together toward the ouster of the Assad regime.

On August 24, a delegation from the National Salvation Front met with officials from the National Security Council for what one participant described as an exchange of issues, one of which was a future office in the capital.

“We did discuss a Washington office,” a founder of the Front and scholar at the Brookings Institution, Ammar Abdulhamid, told The New York Sun. “There was no problem. We not detect any hostility to this idea.”
NY Sun

October 20th, 2006, 6:05 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

The Syrian Brotherhood is going to help bring democracy to Syria? Will they allow others to exercise it once they reach their goal?

October 20th, 2006, 7:05 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani2 ,That is exactly why i do not want rapid change in Syria ,The MB will be in power and god helps us at that time but it would be too late.economic reform without a revolution.

October 20th, 2006, 8:20 pm

 
 

Karim Agha said:

I think the MB will be less bad than this regime,at least they have no hatred toward the syrian people and its culture,are free market economy supporters ,they belong to well established and respected syrian families ,the majority of them are moderate,modernists,holds university decrees and are succesful people everywhere they live,in america,in europe or arab countries.
instead of thinking as minority who fear its own people,look at the future,because Syria as country belong to its people only.

October 20th, 2006, 10:03 pm

 

ugarit said:

EHSANI2:

The article you linked to says “One way is not bailing out countries that are pursuing bad policies.”

That’s absolutely ridiculous! So we should just let that countries economy collapse?

The article is satisfactory in some areas but as a whole it is parochial.

The article makes it even more clear why Syria should be very cautious of moves to a FMC economy.

October 20th, 2006, 10:10 pm

 

ugarit said:

Karim Agha said

“… they belong to the best and oldest syrian families of Syria …”

“best and oldest syrian families”

So what? That somehow makes them better? The Syrians need to move away from the concept of “best syrian families” Best in what?

October 20th, 2006, 10:22 pm

 

Karim Agha said:

Ugarit i agree it was excessive ,i changed it.

October 20th, 2006, 10:27 pm

 

t_desco said:

“The benefits of globalization of trade in goods and services are not controversial among economists. Polls of economists indicate that one of few things on which they agree is that the globalization of international trade, in which markets are opened to flows of foreign goods and services, is desirable. But financial globalization, the opening up to flows of foreign capital, is highly controversial, even among economists, despite benefits of the sort I just mentioned.”
Frederic S. Mishkin

One can’t expect the Federal Reserve Governor to be too critical of the “Wall Street-Treasury complex” (as his job is to soothe the animal spirits), but at least he admits that his viewpoint is contested by other (notable) economists and that financial globalization carries great risks.

October 20th, 2006, 10:43 pm

 

t_desco said:

Iraq mayhem triggers hunt for exit strategy in US and UK

Foreign Office urges talks with Syria and Iran, as militia seize city left by British

The Foreign Office is conducting a review in tandem with Mr Baker. UK officials said the Foreign Office was “beavering away” on about half a dozen options, roughly the same as those considered by the ISG. One official said discussions were proceeding at “a high tempo”.

Among the changes the ISG is expected to recommend is the opening of talks on Iraq’s future with Syria and Iran, countries the White House has sought to isolate.

“The failure of the Baghdad initiative is convincing evidence that a military solution is not going to work,” said Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the US-led occupation authority in Baghdad who also advised the ISG. “We should be talking to neighbouring Arab states and we think we should be talking to Iran – to broker the compromises which might save the situation,” Mr Diamond told the Guardian.

The Foreign Office is backing the ISG proposal to engage with Iran and Syria. “We are encouraging them to go with that,” a Foreign Office source said.
The Guardian

October 21st, 2006, 1:53 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

The U.S. and U.K. governments have voiced replacing Iraq’s
elected prime minister with an Iraqi strongman at the head of a
junta, the Guardian said.

I love this quote. Basically, this sounds like they could do with Saddam back!

October 21st, 2006, 3:01 pm

 

Alex said:

True! … if only they can convince Saddam now to be a bit more democratic, more tolerant of Kurds, more friendly to the United States…

I think “Iraqi strongman” specifically refers to this man.

October 21st, 2006, 4:06 pm

 

norman said:

By now i will take the devil if the status of the Iraqi peopl will improve .

October 21st, 2006, 10:10 pm

 

Ehsani2 said:

Watching the sectarian killing in Iraq between the Sunnis and Shias, what hope do the smaller minorities have in the future of this region?

Precious little, judging by this article from a few days ago.

Iraq’s Christians flee>..

October 21st, 2006, 10:46 pm

 

Karim Agha said:

In Iraq it’s more a war between the arab nationalism and persian nationalism…A weak Iraq is in the interest of the iranian regime.As long that Iraq burns the Iranian regime is happy.

October 21st, 2006, 11:06 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani ,and these Iraqies are going to Syria ,so let us try to keep Syria as a safe haven for minorities .safe and moving toward reform economicly and politicaly without violence.

October 22nd, 2006, 2:05 am

 

Fares said:

Norman, that will happen keeping Syria safe when people are not arrested arbitrarly and shoved in jails like little cows ready to be slaughtered.

October 23rd, 2006, 4:47 am

 

Sami D said:

Ehsani2 wrote: “The U.S. and U.K. governments have voiced replacing Iraq’s elected prime minister with an Iraqi strongman at the head of a junta, the Guardian said. I love this quote. Basically, this sounds like they could do with Saddam back!”?

Absolutely! The only problem with Saddam was that he wouldn’t follow the emperor’s orders, or in backroom US political lingo, Saddam was not “OUR son of a bitch”. So long as a country has OUR SOB at the helm, that country is “moderate” and does not require “liberation”. US had no problem with Saddam’s brutality, just with his obedience. Thomas Friedman, eminent justifier of the empire, basically said that (about “the best of all worlds, Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein”/paraphrasing) over a decade ago.

October 23rd, 2006, 3:53 pm

 

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